Community-based organizations encourage action to prevent heart disease and stroke

American Heart Association

The American Heart Association, the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on building a world of longer, healthier lives, stands with to enhance the education of under-resourced and communities of color, with 12 science-based lessons covering health education and community advocacy.

The EmPOWERED to Serve health lessons offer a way to engage communities and motivate community members to take steps towards creating a culture of health. By educating members of such communities about healthy cardiovascular implications, these lessons can lead to reductions in health disparities and chronic disease.1 The eight identified cities are Central Valley/ Kern County, CA, Orlando, FL, Indianapolis, IN, Charlotte, NC, Las Vegas, NV, Central Ohio, OH, Philadelphia, PA, and Houston, TX. The lessons are offered in collaboration with faith-based organizations, community centers, food banks, and other federally qualified health centers and clinics that are in the communities being served.

Over the past year, more than six hundred participants benefited from the lessons, at 20 community-based organizations. The health lessons have been a long-term resource through the American Heart Association, with the goal of engaging communities and motivating people to create an enduring culture of health where the healthy choice is the easy choice. The lessons ranged from controlling your blood pressure, to knowing your family history, and the importance of learning cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). All topics covered within the health lessons, educate on risk factors and prevention that could be associated with the risk of heart disease or stroke. “The lessons are easy to understand and apply to daily life,” one attendee at Tabernacle Praise and Worship said. Learning how to check our blood pressure with the cuffs is helpful because many of our community members have high blood pressure.” The goal for the American Heart Association and Amgen is that every attendee takes something away from each lesson and apply it in their homes and communities.

“As an organization committed to identifying and removing barriers to health care access and quality, we are dedicated to providing information and resources to equip communities to have better health outcomes,” said Nancy Brown, American Heart Association chief executive officer. “We are proud of the work being done using these simple yet life-changing actions.”

“This program is a very rich experience,” one community-based organization explained. It provides a very adequate material using an easy language creating a collaborative and educational interaction with members from our communities.”

In addition to educating themselves, participants in the health lessons also work to help their classmates. Attendees are teaching each other how to properly check their blood pressure, developing peer-to-peer support sessions, and taking what they have learned in class to teach others who have missed information.

While educating members of the specified communities is important, the work would not be possible without the facilitators in each market who teach the lessons. “I like the topics and content of the health lessons,” one Orlando facilitator expressed. “They are easy to understand and facilitate discussions. During each session, there is always someone that shares their appreciation for it.”

In communities across the country, lack of access to preventive education and care have made it difficult for individuals to make informed decisions about managing their cardiovascular health. Although cardiovascular disease outcomes have improved in recent years, there are still striking disparities among racial and ethnic groups. Nearly half of all U.S. adults have some form of cardiovascular disease with Black Americans more likely to suffer serious outcomes than non-Hispanic whites. Multidimensional disparities and social determinants of health pose challenges in accessing important tools to achieve positive cardiovascular health outcomes. Improving dietary and exercise habits and learning skills such as checking cholesterol, controlling blood pressure, and recognizing the signs of heart attack can significantly reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors and enhance overall wellness.

“At Amgen, we are deeply committed to breaking down access and care barriers to ensure optimal heart heath for all communities. We know that heart health education and early intervention is crucial to promoting healthier lifestyles in underserved communities,” said Dr. Jyothis George, Vice President Global Medical, Cardiovascular & Metabolic Disease Therapy Area Head. “We are proud to support AHA’s important work with EmPOWERED to Serve to extend the knowledge, skills and resources needed to ensure our broader community is heart healthy.”

Upon completion of the lesson series, more individuals are equipped to make healthier diet choices, to prevent and assist in medical emergencies, and to understand the importance of how getting active can lead to a longer, heart healthy life. The American Heart Association encourages residents of any of the eight cities where lessons are taught to join in. For those who are unable to join in person or who want to offer these lessons to groups in their community all lessons are available to download online here.

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